Shiffrin crowned ‘Snow Queen’ with World Cup slalom win

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Mikaela Shiffrin remained undefeated in slalom on the World Cup this season by winning her fifth slalom race in Croatia’s capital of Zagreb. For the win, Shiffrin was awarded the Snow Queen Trophy for the fourth time in her career.

Rounding out the podium with Shiffrin was Petra Vlhova of Slovakia in second and Switzerland’s Wendy Holdener in third. Full results are here.

Shiffrin pumped her fists in excitement after crossing the finish line to take the lead after her first of two slalom runs. The last time Shiffrin crossed a slalom finish line she broke two World Cup Alpine records, and yet, in Zagreb, her post-run reactions were slightly more effusive.

A self-deprecating Shiffrin joked about her lack of emotion at the finish line in a call with the media after her multiple record-setting day in Austria, saying the fact is she experiences too many emotions all at once at the finish.

Multiple thoughts of varying importance flood Shiffrin’s mind, everything from the significant, “Did I make all the gates?” to the somewhat mundane, “Where is the scoreboard?”

“I think a lot of people think that I’m mad or emotionless, or i just don’t care when I come through the finish,” Shiffrin said. “And that’s not it at all.

“It’s certainly not emotionless, it’s emotion-full.”

In both her first and second run in Zagreb, Shiffrin relentlessly accelerated down the course, mining speed as she attacked the gates. Where other racers struggled, Shiffrin was able to capitalize on the many icy, hockey rink-like transitions en route to the finish.

“The surface was perfect so it was easy to be aggressive,” Shiffrin said after the win.

The first place finish also helped Shiffrin hold on to the top position on the leaderboard for slalom and overall World Cup points.

The women’s World Cup tour returns to Austria on January 8 for another slalom event in Flachau, before heading to St. Anton for downhill and Super-G racing on January 12 and 13. Stream all the events on NBC Sports Gold.

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Teri McKeever fired by Cal as women’s swimming coach after investigation

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Teri McKeever, the first woman to serve as a U.S. Olympic swimming head coach, was fired by the University of California at Berkeley after an investigation into alleged verbal and emotional abuse of swimmers that she denied.

McKeever was put on paid administrative leave from her job as head women’s swimming coach in May after an Orange County Register report that 20 current or former Cal swimmers said McKeever verbally and emotionally bullied her swimmers.

Cal athletics director Jim Knowlton wrote in a letter to the Cal team and staff that a resulting independent law firm report detailed “verbally abusive conduct that is antithetical to our most important values.”

“I strongly believe this is in the best interests of our student-athletes, our swimming program and Cal Athletics as a whole,” Knowlton said of McKeever’s firing in a press release. “The report details numerous violations of university policies that prohibit race, national origin and disability discrimination.”

The Orange County Register first published what it says is the full independent report here.

“I deny and unequivocally refute all conclusions that I abused or bullied any athlete and deny any suggestion I discriminated against any athlete on the basis of race, disability or sexual orientation,” McKeever said in a statement Tuesday confirming her firing and expressing disappointment in how the investigation was conducted. “While I am disappointed in the way my CAL Career will conclude, I wish to thank and celebrate the many student-athletes and staff that made my time in Berkeley a true blessing and gift.”

McKeever’s lawyer wrote that McKeever “will be filing suit to expose the manner in which gender has affected not only the evaluation of her coaching but harmed and continues to harm both female and male athletes.”

McKeever led Cal women’s swimming and diving for nearly 30 years, winning four NCAA team titles and coaching Olympic champions including Missy FranklinNatalie Coughlin and Dana Vollmer.

In 2004, she became the first woman to be on a U.S. Olympic swim team coaching staff, as an assistant. In 2012, she became the first woman to be head coach of a U.S. Olympic swim team. She was an assistant again for the Tokyo Games.

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Diana Taurasi returns to U.S. national basketball team

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Diana Taurasi is set to return to the U.S. national basketball team next week for the first time since the Tokyo Olympics, signaling a possible bid for a record-breaking sixth Olympic appearance in 2024 at age 42.

Taurasi is on the 15-player roster for next week’s training camp in Minnesota announced Tuesday.

Brittney Griner is not on the list but is expected to return to competitive basketball later this year with her WNBA team, the Phoenix Mercury (also Taurasi’s longtime team, though she is currently a free agent), after being detained in Russia for 10 months in 2022.

Taurasi said as far back as the 2016 Rio Games that her Olympic career was likely over, but returned to the national team after Dawn Staley succeeded Geno Auriemma as head coach in 2017.

In Tokyo, Taurasi and longtime backcourt partner Sue Bird became the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. Bird has since retired.

After beating Japan in the final, Taurasi said “see you in Paris,” smiling, as she left an NBC interview. That’s now looking less like a joke and more like a prediction.

Minnesota Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve succeeded Staley as head coach last year. In early fall, she guided the U.S. to arguably the best FIBA World Cup performance ever, despite not having stalwarts Bird, Griner, Tina Charles and Sylvia Fowles.

Taurasi was not in contention for the team after suffering a WNBA season-ending quad injury in the summer. Taurasi, who is 38-0 in Olympic games and started every game at the last four Olympics, wasn’t on a U.S. team for an Olympics or worlds for the first time since 2002.

Next year, Taurasi can become the oldest Olympic basketball player in history and the first to play in six Games, according to Olympedia.org. Spain’s Rudy Fernandez could also play in a sixth Olympics in 2024.

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